Saturday, December 31, 2011


We have had a problem with a back label on a wine product sent to China recently.
The Chinese Customs have held up the shipment because the wording on the back label does not exactly match the wording on the invoice.

The wording difference?

On the invoice, in addition to the varietal, vintage and other mandatories is the wording:

(Brand company)'s New Zealand Dry Red Wine

On the back label, along with all the important mandatories including varietal, vintage etc. is the wording:

New Zealand (Brand company)'s Dry Red Wine.

Now the writing on this back label is in Chinese.
The print company for some reason substituted the agreed label artwork for a previous one so that the wording is not in the same order as the invoice.
The line of words in question has exactly  the same number and type of characters on each of the label variants so was virtually impossible to distinguish if one was compared to the other. All of the other Chinese characters on this back label (about 15 lines of it, describe the wine, where it was made, who it was made by, who it is being shipped to, what date it was bottled etc. All of this information is the same on each label and has the same number, type (and order) of characters.

Knowing this we can now simply change the invoice to read exactly as the label but the importer has lost a couple of weeks in the process.

This from a country that regularly poisons people in their own country and around the world with dodgy foodstuffs, illegal and dangerous additives and totally non-compliant labelling.

Go figure!

Monday, December 26, 2011


This song gob-smacked me in 1981. I thought it one of the cleverest and catchy pop tunes ever and it still hits the spot.
If I substituted the word 'beat' for 'drinks' it would also be appropriate for Christmas and New Year drinking.

"Look at the sunrise
I look at it burn
I look into your eyes
Don't know where to turn
I'm gonna drift into that void
I'm flying through space, I'm an asteroid
Time doesn't take place when you're paranoid
I'm thinking about you, and nothing else
Thinking about you, you're thinking about me
Thinking about you, I'm counting the beat
Thinking about you
Thinking about me
Thinking about just you and me, la da de de, there ain't no place I'd rather be
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!
I'm bleeding to death
On a cloudless day
A three, a four heartbeat
A waltzin' away...
Oooh ooh, oo oo
Oooh ooh, oo oo
Oooh ooh, oo oo
Oooh ooh, oo oo
I'm counting the beat 2 3 4 5, I'm feeling the heat to be alive
I'm counting the beat 6 7 8 9, I'm wishing that you,
That you were mine
Thinking about you, you're thinking about me
Thinking about you and counting the beat
Thinking about you
Thinking about me
Thinking about you...
Thinking about me...
Thinking about you.....
Thinking about,
Just you and me, la da de de, there ain't no place I'd rather be
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da"
I'm moving a bit slow this morning, not crawling exactly but I haven't gone running, kayaking or golfing so far.
Normally I count the drinks I consume or at least have a fair idea of the quantity as I invariably only drink wine.

One glass fine - usually when cooking.
Two glasses OK
Three glasses better
Four glasses - oops, gone over half the bottle
Five glasses - that's a bottle gone, glad its a Friday night
Six glasses - now why on earth did I open that second bottle?
Seven glasses - where was the count, better start from the beginning
Eight glasses - ..................................................................................

Now one swallow doesn't make a summer and eight swallows doesn't make an alcoholic but really, I'd rather not go beyond the five.
The trouble is, at festive occasions it is easily to lose track of the drinks. Yesterday, after a good and healthy walk we went next door to the neighbours for Christmas drinks. This was very pleasant and I had three (smallish) glasses of bubbles. This was Deutz Methode which is always a good buy around Christmas time. I did detect a bit of simplicity though and worry that too much specialling has made them engineer the wine downwards (less time on lees perhaps).
Anyway, after these three glasses (Her Indoors had two) we we went home to prepare our Christmas dinner that this year we were having on our own. I opened a bottle of Veuve Cliquot NV. This is a good Marque and not as sweet as its cousin Moet & Chandon. I bought it from Countdown supermarket at a ridiculous mark-down so had a bit of a saving there.

A word of caution. Never buy Champagne off a shelf whether in a supermarket or a bottle store. The wine exposed to sunlight and fluorescent light will be dull, not flat exactly, but will have lost some of its pzazz. when you are paying $50 plus its that pzazz that you want. I always ask for a bottle to be taken out of a carton.
We both had two glasses of Champagne before dinner which was roast lamb (Her Indoors had left the very large chicken in the fridge back in Auckland) and vegetables followed by her sublime trifle (the sponge liberally dosed with La Grande Passion (Grand Marnier's passion-fruit liqueur that we have had for many years).
With the meal we had two glasses each of Marie Zelie 2003 Pinot Noir. This is the Martinborough Vineyards wine that is still going powerfully.

By this time I was feeling a bit tired and went to bed before 11. This morning as I said was a slow start.
How many drinks had I had?
I counted - La da de dee, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da - Seven!

Now that may not seem that much but the first three were on an empty stomach so I guess my body would have been happier with at least one less.

Oh well. Another walk will be on the cards today sometime.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I bought a couple of cases of pretty good Pinot Noir this week off a wine-selling website I use. I am always on the hunt for good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on this site where winemakers with surplus wines sell them off cheap.

I bought Muddy Water Pinot Noir for $21 a bottle not long ago and have seen it in Glengarry recently for $87.00 a bottle. The wine was superb - the price even better.

The wine I bought this week was also from Waipara (in my mind the source of New Zealand's best Pinot Noir and Riesling). The recommended retail price is $39.99. The special price is $14.99. This is a whopping $25 off per bottle. The wine is bloody good and I am happy.

The winery gives 10% commission to the website owner. Are they happy? They obviously would like to sell it for a higher price. If it was retailed at $39.99 then after a retailer mark-up of 45% say then they could theoretically wholesale it for $24.50 (GST included). They are then giving away at least $10 per bottle by selling it through this clearance site. Why? Because it is a 2009 vintage wine. They obviously have 2010 vintage in bottle. 2011 vintage in barrel and tank. There is the 2012 vintage looming. Pressure on stocks vs low sales volume in depressed markets. Entry into New Zealand retail outlets is becoming increasingly difficult as supermarkets gain market share and want cheaper sell-in prices so that they can discount heavily. All these reasons add up to a winery having to let wine go at a crazily low price.

Are they losing money though? They are certainly not making the money that they most likely forecast some years ago. If that forecast was to a lending bank and not to themselves and supporting friends and family then they are in trouble as we have seen with some wine companies that have gone to the wall recently. These though, to be fair, have bought in high at the top of the market with expectations that the industry was going to continue to boom. It is not unlike the property market or pyramid schemes.

Here is a rough (very rough) production costing for a bottle of wine. This is a very broad average but is fair when considering an expensive quality bottle of wine. Big companies, mass producing big brands have much lower costs but this will suffice for this exercise.

Winery overheads
Carton (share)
Bottling cost
Excise and ALAC

Total, say
$7.05 per bottle.

With a RRP of $39.99 even with retailer mark-up of 45% and a decent wholesale margin there is still a whopping great brand/marketing/image component. This is called the Hype. Now there's nothing wrong with the hype - Champagne producers have got away with this for years. Their per bottle costs given the volumes they make is probably not too different and yet they command RRP's of $60 to $160 per bottle.
I would always caution buyers though when buying the fairly standard wines that want $40 plus off you. Is that Chardonnay really worth $60? Does that Waiheke or Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blend or Syrah deserve a price tag of $80? Probably not but hey! If you want it then buy it, but always check out the discount websites first.

By the way. I'm not immune to hype myself. For Christmas I am getting a bottle of Martinborough Vineyards Marie Zelie Pinot Noir 2003 out of the cellar. I paid $170 a bottle for this a few years back. Apart from the outrageously expensive packaging the bottle of wine couldn't have cost more than $10 or $12 to make. Hype? yes. Good drinking? It has been for the other bottles I've had and I'm looking forward to this next one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


The New Zealand wine industry is doing it again.
Previously I identified how some wine producers were getting off the track here:




Now, not satisfied with trying to convert Sauvignon Blanc into a sparking variant (have you tried it? Bloody awful) some wide-boys have added red wine to it to make (puke) Sauvignon Blanc Rose. Yuk! I guess this came about because some desperate bastard, in a hurry for a drink, poured Sauvignon Blanc into a glass that had the remnants of the horrible Marlborough Merlot that he or she couldn't finish. The pinky mess that resulted created a kind of Eureka moment in this inebriates fuddled brain. Now, thanks to: wineries overloaded with a new vintage looming; marketing wannabes needing to prove themselves; sales people running out of promotional ideas other than discounting; and, a fickle buying public that has no frigging taste or idea and what do we get ? .................






In a previous post I mentioned one of the NZ Industry's favourite marketing tactic

Why can't the industry, or at least some of the major players who have enough wine supply to make a difference, just get on with the job of improving the quality, packaging, marketing and distribution of Sauvignon Blanc (the normal one) that has put New Zealand on the map. Stick to the knitting you fools.
Its time that the real Sauvignon Blanc fought back.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

festival [ˈfɛstɪvəl]

festival [ˈfɛstɪvəl]n1. a day or period set aside for celebration or feasting, esp one of religious significance
2. any occasion for celebration, esp one which commemorates an anniversary or other significant event
3. an organized series of special events and performances, usually in one place4. Archaic a time of revelry; merrymaking
5. (modifier) relating to or characteristic of a festival
[from Church Latin fēstivālis of a feast, from Latin festīvus festive]

Well that's what the on-line dictionary says.
When it comes to wine festivals this might be a better description:

or·gy  (ôrj)n. pl. or·gies1. A revel involving unrestrained indulgence, especially sexual activity.
2. Uncontrolled or immoderate indulgence in an activity: . See Synonyms at binge.
3. A secret rite in the cults of ancient Greek or Roman deities, typically involving frenzied singing, dancing, drinking, and sexual activity.

Which better describes what the once-elegant and entertaining events in New Zealand are becoming like.

I have attended and been involved in: the Marlborough Wine Festival from the very early days; the inaugural Taste Martinborough and 15 following events; Canterbury Wine Festival; Auckland food and wine festivals; Devonport Wine Festivals and many others in New Zealand and overseas. Over the years these events have steadily increased in size and popularity but at a corresponding decrease in good behaviour, sobriety and common sense.
This is not to say that earlier festivals were without drunkenness and licentious behaviour. For many years one of the add-on attractions of the helicopter flights at the Marlborough Festival was the people bonking amongst the vines.
I remember once at Toast Martinborough when we took a short cut back to Palliser to get our bus there was a couple going at it by the track. Her Indoors observed that the guy was particularly well-endowed. I ushered her away saying that the poor chap was deformed.
Drunken and half-naked young women have become de rigeur at any events where alcohol is consumed whether it be a folk festival, a music festival or a food and wine festival.

Hey, I'm not complaining but the organisers of these events need to stop hiding behind the facade of 'culture' and face up to the fact that wine (or beer) + sun + time + music + festivity = recipe for disaster in some cases.

The 2011 Toast Martinborough is a case in point. Now admittedly there are two sides to every story and the wowsers have been doing a 'beat up' on this but there is no smoke without fire. See:

I remember serving wine at a festival at the viaduct a few years ago and seeing a woman, drunk, fall over backwards still holding her glass. She cracked her skull and had to be carted away by ambulance.

I'm not a misery-guts and I myself enjoy attending these events and, leaving the car at home, having a few (too many) glasses of wine. They have to be properly policed though because unfortunately there are a lot of people who just want to get pissed and whether it is beer, RTD's or Central Otago Pinot Noir to help them in this sometimes just doesn't matter.